Saturday, June 12, 2010

Uncomfortableness (or CPE #2)

Okay so that's really not a word but it says so much … it describes my state of being this past week and using it helps me with accepting those things that make me uncomfortable, like made up words (minor in the overall scheme of things, I know, but a pet peeve nonetheless).

Are you ready for some honest, personal reflection? That is, after all, one of the main things I'm supposed to be getting out of my CPE experience. A nice beverage of choice might make it a little easier. Since it's a Saturday morning, I'm currently settling for coffee …

Some people don't mind confronting those things that make them uncomfortable; some people avoid those things that make them uncomfortable; some people react with panic, fear, anger, self-righteousness, or indignation. I usually start with the avoidance technique and if that doesn't work, I follow through with any combination of the emotions listed. Hard to admit, but true.

This past week, we read some information on a personality assessment called the Enneagram. I'd never heard of it before but apparently I'm part of the minority (I live with the fact that I'm out of touch and usually years behind – didn't even know what my Myers-Briggs was until this past term – I think I was the last one on the planet…). My first thought on personality typing is that I don't put a lot of stock into them. I find them interesting and thought provoking but I don't like being put in a slot and I don't want to fall into the trap of blaming my bad or unhealthy behaviors on a definition of my personality (my CPE supervisor would be so happy to see me personalizing that instead of lumping the human race into the royal we). Besides, how do I know which ones are valid and which are not. I mean really, have you looked at how many variations there are on Facebook? According to FB, I'm Big Bird, Marcy (from Peanuts), Calvin Coolidge, Green, Kermit the Frog, and Light. According to past ones I've taken through various team-building activities at my jobs, I'm a dove and an otter. On a more serious note, Myers-Briggs says I'm an ENFJ (not even anything cute or fun, just a list of letters). So, now, according to the Enneagram, I'm a 2 (not even my favorite number).

This past Tuesday in Reading Seminar, we discussed our first reading on the Enneagram. I wasn't very positive about it and butted heads with my supervisor. She puts a lot of stock in the Enneagram – lives and breathes it, analyzes everyone she is in relationship with using it and I hear her saying things like "I can't help it, I'm a 7". After the seminar, I was a bit perplexed as to why it irritated me so and it bothered me all day. When I got home, I was discussing it with a friend and she was able to voice what I hadn't been able to put my finger on. Where is God in all of this? That is what was bothering me. If I accept all of my behavior, as it is, because a personality test tells me I do these things because I'm a specific type that takes away the transformational aspect of my relationship with God. Of course, with my usual lack of self-confidence in voicing things theological, I wasn't quite sure of how I was going to explain this in next week's Reading Seminar but I began to pray about being more open to learning about the Enneagram and its possibilities.

Earlier today, I was doing some reading for the Spiritual Formation for Ministry class I'm taking in August and guess what came up? You guessed it – Enneagrams. And did I mention that I walked into my favorite bookstore last week and what did they have on display at the front counter? Yep – several books on Enneagrams (please, to make me feel better, someone please tell me you haven't heard of them before this …). But in the book I was reading, The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner, the Enneagram is presented as a tool for spiritual transformation. Benner describes the Enneagram as a way to look deep inside ourselves and identify those sinful tendencies which we would rather bury or ignore but which, until we confront it as part of who we are, will prevent us from accepting and knowing ourselves "as we are accepted and known by God" (Benner, 72). "It is in the depth of your self that God waits to meet you with transforming love" (73). It's a short book and well worth the read for anyone looking to begin the journey of self-discovery as a starting point for spiritual transformation.

I still feel an uncomfortableness about looking so deeply into myself but I think I'll try strategy number one and confront it … at least until I start to panic …

God's peace, my friends!


  1. Haven't read your blog for a while but followed the FB link earlier today. Very thoughtful posts, and my sincere condolences for your loss. I had no idea you had married. I hope that your new life in the seminary and in the church bring you peace and comfort. Regardless of our beliefs, we all share the experience of an imperfect and fragile existence. You will bring comfort to many in this next chapter of your life. You'll be great.

  2. It took me a while (years) to appreciate that all these various tools for insight give us that and no more: a perspective, a different way of looking at ourselves. The issue isn't really which is best, because none is perfect (although I'll admit that as something of a technocrat I'm more inclined toward the Myers Briggs - all that validation!). The point is thinking about what in the perspective is accurate and meaningful for you, and what if anything you want to do with it. Insight is helpful, but insight by itself isn't change. That requires a decision of you.

    I'm also an NF (and I understand a great many clergy are). I have no idea about my Enneagram number; but my favorite insight was that I'm a Golden Retriever with an Otter minor. No, it doesn't tell you a thing. However, it did make me think about myself, and think about whether there was anything there I needed to address. And of course anything I want to address I can only address, as the Prayer Book says, "with God's help."